Body-Worn Police Cameras Growing in Popularity
Police departments and other law enforcement agencies across the country are experimenting with, or at least considering, the use of body-worn cameras for their officers.
The Orlando Police Department is teaming with the University of South Florida (USF) to conduct a yearlong study using on-body cameras. The study will evaluate and compare police interactions with civilians that occur with and without cameras.
About 50 of the Florida city’s officers will wear the compact cameras on their caps, glasses, collars or other places on their uniforms, the Tampa Bay Times reported in January 2014.
“A lot of departments are moving toward body-worn cameras,” Lorie Fridell, an associate professor of criminology at USF, told the newspaper. “There are a number of what I’ll call hypotheses about what good they might produce, but there’s limited empirical testing.”
In San Antonio, Texas, the police chief is recommending a yearlong pilot program for his officers to use body-worn cameras. In a January 2014 memo to the city manager, Chief William P. McManus noted that city airport police will begin using body-worn cameras in the spring.
McManus wrote that body-worn cameras are “the subject of much interest in the law enforcement and civil liberties communities.”
In Greenville, N.C., police officers are assigned Taser Axon cameras, which are worn on their collar, glasses or epaulet and can record for up to eight hours, according to the department’s policy manual. Recordings are stored in an online evidence repository.
“We decided that, on top of our 100 percent in-car video, we wanted to supplement that with body-wear cameras just to get the full perspective,” Greenville Police Chief Hassan Aden said in a recent interview with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.
The department has been using the body-wear cameras since early 2013 and Aden said the initial results appear to be positive.
“It is my sense that our use of force [incidents] are indeed going down,” he said during the COPS interview. “External citizen complaints are going down.”
Orlando police officers also will use Taser cameras, which each cost $200 to $400, according to the Tampa Bay Times article. Fridell, of USF, said cameras can increase officer accountability and professionalism because supervisors can review recorded incidents.
A study conducted in 2012 and 2013 by the Rialto (Calif.) Police Department found an 88% decrease in the number of complaints filed against officers compared to the previous 12 months, The New York Times reported. The reduction came despite the fact that only half of the department’s officers were wearing the cameras at any given time.
In addition, police officers used force 60% less often, according to the Times article. When officers did use force, it was twice as likely to be administered by officers not wearing the cameras.